Grave Matters – A Meditation for All Saints Day

all-saints-day-2Last night was Halloween, which is a “holiday” that just about everyone celebrates in one form or another. Our subdivision was filled last night with little (and, disturbingly, not-so-little) ghouls and goblins trooping from door to door in search of this year’s cache of sugary loot. But while you may be waking up this morning still a little loopy from sampling the kids’ candy stash, I want to introduce you to another really “holy day”—All Saints Day.

Traditionally, All Saints Day has had a couple of meanings. In the old days there was All Saints Day, which celebrated those Christians who had been singled out as exceptionally “saints” of the church—your Mother Theresa types, that sort of thing—followed the next day by “All Souls Day” when the rest of the departed hoi polloi of the church was honored—your regular Christians.

But, biblically speaking, “saint” is a word that is most often used to connote a regular, faithful Christian. There was no celebrity saint distinction in the early church, so a lot of traditions have dropped All Souls while still others have dropped the whole concept of honoring the righteous dead altogether. That’s a grave mistake, in my opinion (pun absolutely intended).

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Leaving a Legacy

What is it you PLAN to do with your one wild and precious life?

2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Timothy 3:10-17

mary oliverAs we’ve been moving through this series titled “One Life,” one of the questions we’ve been focusing on is based on that quote by poet Mary Oliver which we have posted on one of the banners out in the Great Room: “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

So far we’ve talked about living a gifted life, living the gift of the Holy Spirit within us. We’ve talked about living a life that is pleasing to God, a “God-approved life” that perseveres and does the work of the kingdom. Last week we talked about living our one life in the “godly” way, that reflects the goal of life in Christ. Those are all about the nature of living a life that is wild and precious to God.

This week I want to focus on the word “plan.” What is it you “plan” to do with your one wild and precious life? It’s a question about intentionality and one that, as a former Army officer, I really gravitate toward. I am trained to get up every day and have a plan before my feet hit the floor. That might not be the way you operate (and I envy you in some ways!). But the truth is that all of us, on some level, need a plan if we’re going to live our one life with a purpose. The things we’ve talked about: giftedness, pleasing God, living in a godly way, are all about living a life that can fit into God’s plan for the world. When we are intentional about living our one life for God’s purposes, we find purpose for our own lives and can live them with joy and abundance.

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A Godly Life

The Christian life can sometimes look like a hockey fight, but godliness is the goal!

1 Timothy 6:6-10; 2 Timothy 3:1-9

fight 3It’s no secret to my congregation that I am a fan of my hometown Pittsburgh sports teams. Even though we’ve been living out west for 15 years, it’s an indicator that the old Pittsburgh adage is true: you can take the boy out of the ‘Burgh, but you can’t take the ‘Burgh out of the boy.

One of my favorite hometown sports to watch is hockey. When I was in college, the tickets were a lot cheaper than they are now, and my friends and I could go down to the old Civic Arena and cheer on the Penguins. One of the first dates I took Jennifer on was to a Penguins game—amazingly, she married me anyway

Now, one of the reasons I love hockey is the speed and the skill that’s demonstrated on the ice. It’s constant action. Of course, a lot of other people like hockey because of the fights (another old adage: “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out). In most sports, you get thrown out of the game if you fight, but in hockey you get five minutes in the penalty box to rest before you can come out and do it again.

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The Wesleyan Operating System

When visioning the way forward for the church, sometimes it’s helpful to first go “back to the future…”

wesley with bible

John Wesley, who sought to form a people who strived for “holiness of heart and life.”

We have just finished a process to discern God’s unique vision for Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church, and we’ll be revealing the full scope of that vision in a few weeks. A team of ten laity and I used Will Mancini’s excellent Church Unique resources to drill down on what this church’s unique contribution to the kingdom in our region might be. The operating question Mancini uses in his process is this: “What can this church do better than 10,000 others?”

We have a lot of great discussion about that in our meetings, but the overall sense of the team was that our uniqueness is bound up in our Wesleyan/Methodist heritage, theology, and practice. There are lots of United Methodist churches, but very few are actually intentionally Wesleyan in doctrine and practice, while the vast majority of churches in our region come from the Reformed tradition. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that– the Body of Christ is a mosaic of different emphases and skill sets. Indeed, to be Wesleyan is not to be a completely unique kind of Christian. In his sermon The Character of a Methodist, Wesley said that Methodists aren’t marked by any outward appearance, unique practice, or unusual set of Christian doctrines. To be Methodist, in other words, is to embrace the historic, apostolic, and Scriptural Christian faith. Wesley remained an Anglican all of his life and thus the doctrinal statements of Methodism were essentially the doctrinal statements of the Anglican Articles of Religion (with some modifications).

But there is something deeply unique about our Methodist DNA that speaks to a very specific purpose for the church–an emphasis on making disciples of Jesus in an intentional, systematic way using a particular “method “ (or operating system). It’s a tradition that takes both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Though Wesleyan theology differs on some points with other traditions, we have traditionally been about the goal of building people into Christian disciples. AsWesley put it in The Character of a Methodist, a disciple of Jesus will demonstrate:

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A God Approved Life

2 Timothy 2:1-26

dmv 1With two teenagers in our house we’ve been talking a lot about driver’s licenses lately. It’s one of the rite of passages from childhood to adulthood in American culture: Navigating the soul-numbing process of going down to the DMV, taking the written test, of course, followed by the driving test with that serious-looking man checking stuff off on his clipboard as you weave through the cones, demonstrate the proper use of a turn signal and attempt the nerve-wracking feat of parallel parking in three moves or less.

Getting a driver’s license can be a trying experience. One man reports that after spending 3½ hours enduring the long lines, surly clerks and insane regulations at the Department of Motor Vehicles, he stopped at a sporting goods store to pick up a gift for his son, who had just started playing in a T-ball baseball league for little kids. He saw a nice bat, and took it to the cash register.

“Cash or charge?” the clerk asked.

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